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No lease, but ballpark funding will go before Wilmington voters

Carolina LeagueIt’s official: Wilmington (N.C.) voters will be asked this fall to approve $37 million in bonding for a new waterfront ballpark for an Atlanta Braves farm team, despite the lack of a lease between the parties.

We had reported that Wilmington and Mandalay Baseball Properties had failed to reach agreement on a lease for a $31-million downtown ballpark, even though some broad strokes were not in dispute. However, a bond referendum faced a deadline of Aug. 7 for City Council to place it on the ballot, and the council unanimously decided to move ahead with the referendum. The rationale: if an agreement with Mandalay can be reached, voters can decide whether to move ahead with the deal. If there’s no ballpark agreement, the voter could end up being moot.

In any case, expect a lot of nastiness in Wilmington in coming months; one ballpark opponent called the council “suckers” for wanting to move forward with a vote, and Americans for Prosperity has already spent $20,000 in defeating public funding of the facility.

The two sides are working on a proposal for a publicly funded new facility to be managed by Mandalay and occupied by the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League), a team to be owned by the Braves.

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